Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Gaps in support for abuse victims

Distressed woman (generic)
A Map of Gaps website will highlight the areas where services are lacking

There are gaps in services in Wales for women who have experienced abuse and violence, a new report has found.

It says that while progress has been made in tackling domestic abuse, it is lacking in other forms of violence against women, including rape.

More emphasis should be placed on preventative measures and the report calls on the assembly government to take a strategic approach to the issue.

The assembly government said progress had been made in the areas highlighted.

The Map of Gaps 2 report was compiled by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and is a follow up to the first report in 2007 which identified areas of concern and suggested improvements.

Its findings point to a lack of services for women who choose, or feel unable, to report incidents of violence or abuse to the police.

This is because many of the new services are linked to the criminal justice system, said the report.

One rape crisis centre in Wales compared to 13 in Scotland
There are five statutory funded sexual assault referral centres in Wales
Eighteen local authorities in Wales do not have a specialised voluntary sexual violence service
There is only one prostitution, trafficking and sexual exploitation service in Wales which is in Cardiff
Source: Map of Gaps 2 report

To accompany the report, a Map of Gaps interactive website that allows people to see what services are available in their area, has been launched.

The website has a function that enables members of the public to contact their local authority, constituency and regional AMs, and MPs in order to ask them to take action to improve provision in their area.

The EHRC and EVAW want to see the assembly government build on the progress made in tackling domestic abuse by taking a strategic approach to tackling all forms of violence and abuse towards women.

They are also calling for local authorities and other relevant public bodies to give increased priority to tackling all forms of violence and abuse towards women.

Kate Bennett from the EHRC in Wales said the interactive map revealed some worrying findings about the differences in services in Wales and throughout Britain.

She also called on the assembly government and local authorities to ensure women had access to the services they needed.

Welsh services - 2007 and 2009 compared
Number of violence against women support service: 2007 - 52, 2009 - 60
Domestic violence services: 2007 - 38, 2009 - 38
Specialist domestic violence courts: 2007 - 8, 2009 - 11
Rape crisis centre: 2007 - 1, 2009 - 1
Sexual assault referral centre: 2007 - 3, 2009 - 5
Source: Map of Gaps 2 report

"We know that the best way forward is the setting of strategic priorities and the long-term funding of projects," she said.

"We need to see more work being done to prevent instances of violence and abuse.

We know that a great deal of violence towards women is not reported to the police.

"By making people aware of the horrors faced by women that experience violence, we go some way towards making all people realise it cannot be tolerated in any shape or form."

Paula Hardy, chief executive of Welsh Women's Aid, which is a member of the EVAW Coalition, said: "Map of Gaps 2 demonstrates that recent investment has been linked to the criminal justice system.

"Whilst this is welcomed, it is clear that women need both specialist voluntary services as well as statutory services.

"Both types of service provision are important as they meet the different needs of women who have suffered violence and are important components of the full collection of support that victims require."

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said it was pleased the report recognised the progress in Wales in tackling domestic abuse.

"In some of the areas highlighted in the report, progress has already been made," he added.

"For example, we now fund four services for women from ethnic minorities in Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Wrexham, not two as mentioned in the report.

"There are also six sexual assault referral centres in Wales including one in North Wales.

"We are currently developing a new strategic action plan to enhance the delivery of our national domestic abuse strategy. This new plan will continue to prioritise actions to protect women from violence."

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